It's been a while since my last post, but it's been a crazy few days.
On Tuesday, January 29, I was getting ready for bed at around 10:00PM. As I was laying in bed before falling asleep, I started to feel really warm and my face started feeling hot. Luckily we had a thermometer with us, so we took my temperature as a precaution. The thermometer read 101.3°. That was really high, so we took my temperature a couple more times and it was the same. We called the on-call number I was given when I was discharged so I could talk with a donor coordinator. They said I should go to the ER if I have a fever, so that's where we went. The coordinator said she would call ahead and tell them we were coming.
We went to the ER at the same hospital I had my surgery in. When we arrived at around 10:30PM, they took my vitals and asked why I was there. Then they told us to wait until my name was called. After about 15 minutes, we were called into triage where they asked more about why I was there, what my pain was like, stuff like that. We then waited in the waiting room for a little longer until I was called back by a nurse to have a couple of tests done. I had an IV inserted in my right arm, some blood drawn, and a flu test, which consisted of the nurse shoving a long stick far back into my nose to the mucus membranes. That was not a fun sensation. We waited a bit longer before I was called back for a chest X-ray, and then we waited for a bit longer. Finally, at 1:30AM, we were brought back and I was given a bed in the ER.
Once we were, time started to get really weird. We couldn’t see outside and the clock was behind me, so I didn't know what time it was. I tried sleeping, but Jill had a hard time since the 2 chairs in the small room were both really uncomfortable. She was so tired that she resorted to trying to sleep on the floor. Eventually, they brought a cot for her to sleep in, which was nice.
At around 2:45AM, we were told that all the tests they did while I was in the waiting room came back normal. The doctors wanted to do a CT scan to see if they could see anything else. I needed to prepare by drinking a dye at regular intervals. I had to drink it at 2:45AM, 3:15AM, and 3:45AM. The dye was one of the worst things I have ever tasted. It was super bitter and disgusting; it sent shivers down my spine. The medical staff hooked me up to an IV drip to pump a liter of fluid into me before the scan. Finally, around 4:00AM, I was brought back to have my CT scan. It was pretty much the same as the one I had before. I was told the results would be back in about an hour.
At 5:30AM, a doctor came in with the results. She told me "No good deed goes unpunished", and that I had appendicitis. More specifically, my appendix was perforated/ruptured and had an abscess, or a little sac of pus, attached to it. Of all the things I thought she was going to say, appendicitis was pretty low on that list. A lot of other doctors and surgeons, including the one that removed my kidney, came in and said a lot of things, so I'll summarize what they said. Basically, they were all shocked this happened. Post kidney-donation-surgery appendicitis has only appeared in medical literature 3 or 4 times, and all of those times it was when the left kidney was removed (my right kidney was removed). They don't know exactly what caused it, but their best guess was that it was a bizarre coincidence and it probably would have happened eventually regardless of my surgery. The next step was to have the Interventional Radiology (IR) department (which uses ultrasound, CT scans, and other techniques to accurately perform operations) insert a tube to drain the abscess of pus, all the while pumping me full of antibiotics via IV to help me fight the infection. Then, maybe 6 weeks later, they might remove my appendix.
After I got that diagnosis and all while doctors were coming in and out, I was having a hard time processing everything. I was tired, in a bit of pain, and was now told I'd have to go back to the hospital for more procedures after I had been getting ready to go home.
Finally, at 3:30PM on Wednesday, 17 hours after we first arrived at the ER, they brought me to a room on the same floor I was on before. The hospital was at 100% capacity. However, because I was a donor, they put me near the top of the list for a bed, and because I had just had transplant surgery, they put me back on the transplant floor. I got a lot of confused looks from nurses who remembered me and asked, "Weren't you just here?" It was nice to be back in a familiar place with the same great nurses, but I wasn't happy about being back in the hospital. At least the chair that converts into a bed the nurses gave Jill to sleep in was bigger this time.
I was told I wouldn't be able to have the abscess drain put in until the following day, Thursday, because they were booked on Wednesday. That didn't make me happy, because I hadn't eaten anything since Tuesday evening, and that was just a few prunes and 2 french fries. I also hadn't had anything to drink since I had a little water bottle in the ER waiting room. Needless to say, I was very thirsty and hungry. I did have IV fluids, and they started me on IV antibiotics to help my body fight the infection. I wasn’t allowed to eat or drink anything until after my procedure.
At 8:30AM on Thursday the 30th, I was brought down to IR to have the drain inserted. I was nervous, because I didn't like the idea of having a tube sticking out of the side of my abdomen draining pus for a few days. They did an ultrasound, and they said the abscess actually looked pretty small, so they did another CT scan as well (this time thankfully without the IV dye). They took a look at that and told me that my body must be reacting well to the antibiotics because the abscess was already too small to drain. Relieved that I didn’t need a drain sticking out of my side, I was brought back to my hospital room. I was also overjoyed that because my procedure was done, I was finally able to eat and drink for the first time in almost 2 full days. Once I was given permission, I enjoyed a ginger ale and had beef stroganoff for dinner, which coincidentally was my first solid meal post-donation 2 weeks earlier.
On Friday the 31st, a lot of doctors came in and out to see me, including a colorectal surgeon. They said that I would start taking oral antibiotics that day, and if everything looked good, I would be discharged the next morning. I would have to have a follow-up appointment on Monday, February 3rd, and if everything still looked good, we could finally go back home to Virginia. I would also need to come back in mid-February for another CT scan where they would determine if I need my appendix out, and I could also do my second donation follow-up appointment while I’m here as well. I was very excited to hear this, because both Jill and I are excited to finally go home. Friday was another day of rest and recuperation. By the end of the day, I was feeling almost normal again. The antibiotics had worked, because my pain had lessened to the point that I could walk faster and generally move around a lot easier. It felt awesome. I was really starting to feel human again.
On Saturday, February 1st, the oral antibiotics were working well, and the surgeons came in early to check in on me. They determined that I was well enough to be discharged, so after waiting another few hours, we finally got my discharge paperwork and were sent back to the Transplant House with a bunch of antibiotics to take twice a day. Since we were supposed to check out of the Transplant House that day, we had to extend our reservation a bit. Our reservation is until the 3rd, so if all goes well during my appointment, we can just head back home afterwards. We also have another reservation for the 4th through the 11th, just in case, but hopefully we won’t need it.
That evening, we had a conversation with 2 women who are staying here at the Transplant House. Both of their husbands had double lung transplants, but one of them more recently than the other. Unfortunately, one of their husbands had a couple of mini-strokes and had to go back to the hospital after being in the Transplant House for a while. Fortunately, he seems to be doing well, but the doctors will probably keep him there for a little while just to make sure. He’s bummed he has to watch the Super Bowl from the hospital, but his wife said she would bring him a pizza to try to make up for it. It’s been really illuminating to learn about the experiences of the recipients and their caregivers during our stay here at the Transplant House. They mentioned that in the morning, a bunch of frat boys from UPenn came and made them breakfast. It was just the 2 of them that showed up for breakfast, and the frat boys listened while they told them stories about why there were there, their pasts, etc. They said it was a great time.
This morning, we were treated to a nice hot breakfast prepared by a few pre-med volunteers from Ursinus College. They were very nice, and not just because they made breakfast for us. Jill and I were the only two people there, but they put all the leftovers in tupperware for the other guests. For the rest of the day, we’re planning to relax (and, of course, take my antibiotics) to prepare for my appointment tomorrow.
Once again, my wife Jill was with me there in the hospital during the whole stay. She waited on me, helped me whenever I needed it, and made sure I took my walks when I needed to. She has been so great, and I am endlessly thankful for her love and support. She has been there for me when I needed her during this whole process, and I couldn’t have gone through it without her.
Sorry for the delay in posting, but it’s been a pretty crazy few days. This is just a blip in my recovery though, hopefully, so as long as things go well, I’m right back on track.